Any Singaporean worth his or her salt would have been to Mustafa Centre at least once in their lifetime and the words that come to mind when we talk about Mustafa are “24 hour shopping mall!” or “the place that sells EVERYTHING!” For the uninitiated, Mustafa Centre is set somewhere in the middle of Little India (near City Square Mall or Park Royal on Kitchener Road) opened by an Indian businessman in the 1970s. They literally sell everything. The store is 4? 5? Floors high (I wasn’t counting) and filled with goods from clothes to electronics to jewellery to household items to food even. It’s what the Chinese would call “bao gah liao” (everything also have). They have also expanded to a second building just behind the first, connected by a bridge on one of the middle floors.
My colleague did a test once, to find out if Mustafa really sold EVERYTHING. It was the middle of the night when his fat arse broke the chair he was sitting on so he decided where better to buy a new chair at that time if not Mustafa. So he drove down to Mustafa, walked about the place for a bit and realized, they may sell preserved dates from the Middle East in the food section, or a wide range of gold bracelets on the first floor, but chairs with wheels they do not carry. And thus, the myth of Mustafa is broken. They don’t really sell everything.
Bryan and I were there over the weekend because he found a pair of Ray Bans that were about $50 cheaper than retail rate. That’s the other thing about Mustafa, they sell items at slightly below city prices. My Neutrogena shower gel goes for about $12 at Watsons but it is $9.50 at Mustafa. Another popular item to be purchased is perfumes but they don’t carry the latest scents such as Miss Dior, much to my disappointment.
Mustafa has many entrances and each is guarded rather closely by a theft detector and 2 security personnel. When I went through entrance number 4, I set off the alarm. The lady asked if I had bought anything new recently so I dug out my Coach wallet. We waved that through and the alarms went BEEP BEEP BEEP. After digging through the damn wallet, we found the security tag which the Coach staff obviously failed to disable. That annoying piece of technology would have set off every alarm in Mustafa as they have 20 million entrances / exits you have to walk through to travel from section to section. Those with plastic bags will have their bags tagged shut to prevent theft.
I’ve always complained about pharmacies and personal care stores such as Watsons and Guardian to have a non-existent method to their shelving. I still haven’t figured out why they put condoms next to contact lens so I can never find anything right away without having to go up and down the shelves many times. At Mustafa, the situation is a million times worse. They attempt to put things in categories (all soap brands in soap section, followed by shower gels and the like), however these attempts can be repeated a few times in several places. I found toothpaste in 3 different parts of the entire building. It’s as if they were afraid people couldn’t find anything so they scatter the sections around so you’d find something before you give up.
So while I found Darlie toothpaste thrice, I had a hard time finding my Biore make-up remover. I scanned the shelves repeatedly, muttering Biore Biore Biore under my breath as if it would make a difference, my eyes opened so big to look out for it that my eyeballs dried up from the over-exposure. After awhile I got a blinding headache. In the end I gave up. They may have a range of Neutrogena and Clean & Clear products but Biore they had close to none.
What they don’t have in variety per type of item, they have in variety across all items. Such as stethoscopes, right next to the blood pressure monitor and the walking sticks, across from the torch lights and the sunshades. They also have a great variety of dates but no dried figs in sight. They had 20 kinds of rice pertaining to the Indian palate, but a limited range of corn flakes (I couldn’t find my Post Weight Watcher cereal). They also had the traditional weighing scale with hook and plate used by warehouses of the past. If I ever needed to weigh huge bags of briyani rice with one arm in the dark while measuring my blood pressure under the exertion, I know where to go for supplies.
In the end, we left the place with 2 buckets, car-washing supplies, 2 tin cans of papadum snacks, dates, an assortment of toiletries and Ray Bans. All at Mustafa, the place that sells almost everything.
Tip: Park at City Square mall instead (just 100m away). It’s definitely easier than trying to get into Mustafa with all the other cars.
Now I’m wondering if they sold mahjong tables.
Mustapha by Dick Lee
this song was stuck in my head for 2 days. rather apt.